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The Cherokee Removal
Group B Readings
by Jennifer Erbach

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Speech of Peleg Sprague | Speech of Edward Everett

The following are excerpts from a speech made by Senator Peleg Sprague (Maine) on April 16, 1830, during the Senate's debate over the Indian Removal Bill.

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This bill and amendment, and the discussion, which they have produced invoke the question of the rights and duties of the United States with respect to the Indian tribes generally, but more especially the Cherokees. With that people we have not less than fifteen treats, The first made in the year 1785, and the last in 1819.

By several of these treaties, we hare unequivocally guarantied to them that they shall forever enjoy—
1st. Their separate existence, as a poetical community:
2d. Undisturbed possession and full enjoyment of their lands, within certain boundaries, which are duly defined and fully described;
3d. The protection of the United States, against all interference with, or encroachments upon their rights by any people, state, or nation.

For these promises, on our part, we received ample consideration---
By the restoration and establishing of peace;
By a large cessions of territory;
By the promise on their part to treat with no other state or nation; and other important stipulations.

These treaties were made with all the forms and solemnities which could give them forces and efficacy; by Commissioners, duly appointed with full power; ratified by the Senate; confirmed by the President' and announced to the world, by his proclamation, as the binding compact of the nation, and the4 supreme law of the land.

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Much has been said of their [the Cherokees] being untutored savages, as if that could dissolve our treaties! No one pretends, that they are less cultivated now than when those treaties were made. Indeed, it is certain, that they have greatly advanced in civilization; we see it, in the very proofs introduced by the gentleman from Georgia, to show their barbarism. He produced to the Senate, a printed code of Cherokee laws; and a newspaper issued from a Cherokee press! Is there another instance of such productions from any Indian nation? I was surprised, that with all his scrutiny, he could find no more remnants of savage customs. I shall not dwell upon his selections from their laws. The first was; that if a horse should be stolen; and the owner, finding the thief in possession, should immediately kill him, in the excess of passion—it should rest upon his own conscience. It is to be observed that the person slain must have been guilty; and for such an offence, life is now taken by the laws of England. But this provision inserted in the Cherokee code, more than twenty years ago, has yielded to further light, and been since repealed. Time will not permit me to dwell upon their advances in the arts of civilized life. It is known to have been great. They till the ground, manufacture for themselves, have work-shops, a printing press, schools, churches, and a regularly organized Government. Indeed, the gentleman from Tennessee, himself, told us that some individuals of that nation were qualified for seats in this august assembly.

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Whither are the Cherokees to go? What are the benefits of the change? What system has been matured for their security? What laws for their government? These questions are answered only by gilded promises in general terms; they are to become enlightened and civilized husbandmen.

They now live by the cultivation of the soil, and the mechanic arts. It is proposed to send them from their cotton fields, their farms and their gardens; to a distant and an unsubdued wilderness—to make them tillers of the earth! —to remove them from their looms, their work-shops, their printing press, their schools, and churches, near the white settlements; to frowning forests, surrounded with naked savages—that they may become enlightened and civilized! We have pledged to them our protection—and, instead of shielding them where they now are, within our reach, under our own arm, we send these natives of a southern clime to northern regions, amongst fierce and warlike barbarians. And what security do we propose to them? —a new guarantee !! Who can look an Indian in the face; and say to him; we, and our fathers, for more than forty years, have made to you the most solemn promises; we now violate and trample upon them all; but offer you in their stead—another guarantee! !

Will they be in no danger of attack, from the primitive inhabitants of the regions to which they emigrate? How can it be otherwise? The official documents show us the fact, that some of the few, who have already gone, were involved in conflicts with the native tribes, and compelled to a second removal.

How are they to subsist? Has not that country now, as great an Indian population, as it can sustain? What has become of the original occupants? Have we not already caused accessions to their numbers, and been compressing them more and more? Is not the consequence inevitable, that some must be stinted in the means of subsistence? Here too, we have the light of experience. By an official communication, from Governor Clark, the Superintendent of Indian affairs; we learn that the most powerful tribes, west of the Mississippi, are, every year, so distressed by famine, that many die for want of food. The scenes of their suffering are hardly exceeded by the sieges of Jerusalem, and Samaria. There might be seen the miserable mother, in all the tortures which hunger can inflict, giving her last morsel for the sustenance of her child, and then fainting, sinking, and actually dying of starvation! And the orphan? —no one can spare it food—it is put alive into the grave of the parent, which thus closes over the quick and the dead ! And this not in a solitary instance only, bat repeatedly and frequently. "The living child is often buried with the dead mother."

Mr. President: I am aware that their white neighbors desire the absence of the Indians; and if they can find safety and subsistence beyond the Mississippi, I should rejoice exceedingly at their removal, because it would relieve the States, of their presence. I would do much to effect a consummation so devoutly to be wished. But let it be by their own free choice, unawed by fear, unseduced by bribes. Let as not compel them, by withdrawing the protection, which we have pledged. Theirs must be the pain of departure, and the hazard of the change. They are men, and have the feelings and attachments of men; and if all the ties which bind them to their country, and their frames are to be rent asunder; let it be by their own free hand. If they are to leave forever the streams, at which they have drank, and the trees under which they have reclined: if the fires are nevermore to be Iighted up in the council house of their chiefs; and must be quenched forever upon the domestic hearth, by the tears of the inmates, who have there joined the nuptial feast, and the funeral wail: if they are to look for the last time upon the land of their birth—which drank up the blood of their fathers, shed in its defence—and is mingled with the sacred dust of children and friends—to turn their aching vision to distant regions enveloped in darkness and surrounded by dangers—let it be by their own, free choice, not by the coercion of a withdrawal of the protection of oar plighted faith. They can best appreciate the dangers and difficulties which beset their path. It is their fate which is impending; and it is their right to judge; while we have no warrant to falsify our promise.

It is said that their existence cannot be preserved; that it is the doom of Providence, that they most perish. So indeed, must we all; but let it be in the course of nature; not by the hand of violence. If in truth, they are now in the decrepitude of age; let as permit them to live out all their days, and die in peace; not bring down their grey hairs in blood, to a foreign grave.

Sprague, Peleg. "Speech of Mr. Peleg Sprague, of Maine: Delivered in The Senate of the United States, 16th April, 1830, In Reply to Messrs. White, McKiney, and Forsyth, Upon the Subject of The Removal of the Indians," (Washington: Office of the National Journal, 1830) pp. 1, 28, 34-35.

The following excerpts are taken from a speech given by Representative Edward Everett (Massachusetts) on May 19th 1830, during a debate in the House of Representatives over the Indian Removal Bill.

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Gentlemen, who favor the project, cannot have viewed it as it is. They think of a march of Indian warriors, penetrating with their accustomed vigor, the forest or the cane brake—they think of the youthful Indian hunter, going forth exultingly to the chase. Sir, it is no such thing. This is all past; it is matter of distant tradition, and poetical fancy. They have nothing now left of the Indian, but his social and political inferiority. They are to go in families, the old and the young, wives and children, the feeble, the sick. And how are they to go? Not in luxurious carriages; they are poor. Not in stagecoaches; they go to a region where there are none. Not even in wagons, nor on horseback, for they are to go in the least expensive manner possible. They are to go on foot: nay, they are to be driven by contract. The price has been reduced, and is still further to be reduced, and it is to be reduced, by sending them by contract. It is to be screwed down to the least farthing, to eight dollars per head. — A community of civilized people, of all ages, sexes and conditions of bodily health, are to be dragged hundreds of miles, over mountains, rivers, and deserts, where there are no roads, no bridges, no habitations, and this is to be done for eight dollars a head; and done by contract. The question is to be, what is the least for which you will take so many hundred families, averaging so many infirm old men, so many little children, so many lame, feeble and sick? What will you contract for? The imagination sickens at the thought of what will happen to a company of these emigrants, which may prove less strong, less able to pursue the journey than was anticipated. — Will the contractor stop for the old man to rest, for the sick to get well; for the fainting women and children to revive? He will not; he cannot afford to. And this process is to be extended to every family, in a population of seventy-five thousand souls. This is what we call the removal of the Indians!

It is very easy to talk of this subject, reposing on these luxurious chairs, and protected by these massy walls, and this gorgeous canopy, from the power of the elements. Removal is a soft word, and words are delusive. — But let gentlemen take the matter home to themselves and their neighbors. There are 75,000 Indians to be removed. This is not less than the population of two congressional districts. We are going, then, to take a population of Indians, of families, who live as we do in houses, work as we do in the field or the workshop, at the plough and the loom, who are governed as we are by laws, who send their children to school, and who attend themselves on the ministry of the Christian faith, to march them from their homes, and put them down in a remote unexplored desert. We are going to do it— this Congress is going to do it—this is a bill to do it. Now let any gentleman think how he would stand, were he to go home and tell his constituents, that they were to be removed, whole counties of them—they must fly before the wrath of insupportable laws—they must go to the distant desert, beyond Arkansas—go for eight dollars a head, by contract—that this was the policy of the Government—that the bill had passed—the money was voted—you had voted for it—and go they must.

* *

But, sir, these Indians could not live in this country, not even if your advancing population would let them alone, and the country itself were a pretty good one. It requires some of the highest qualities of civilized man to emigrate to advantage. I do not speak of great intellectual elevation; not of book learning, nor moral excellence; though this last is of great importance in determining the prosperity of a new settlement. But it is only the chosen portion of a community, its elite, that can perform this great work of building up a new country. The nervous, ardent young man, in the bloom of opening life, and the pride of health, can do if. It is this part of the population that has done it. This is the great drain of New England and the other Atlantic States. But to take up a whole population; the old, the feeble, the infant, the inefficient and helpless, that can hardly get through life any where, to take them tip by a sweeping operation, and scatter them over an unprepared wilderness, is madness. It is utterly impossible for them—I do not say to prosper—but even to subsist. Such a, thing was never heard of. How narrowly did the pilgrims of New England escape destruction, although their ranks were made up of men of the sternest moral qualities, well provided with pecuniary resources, and recruited for several years by new adventurers! The Indians are to be fed a year at our expense. So far is well, because they will not starve that year. But, are the prairies to be broken up, houses built, crops raised, and the timber brought forward, in one year? Sir, if a vigorous young man, going into the prairie and commencing a settlement, can raise a crop to support himself the second year, I take it he does well. To expect a community of Indian families to do it, is beyond all reason. The Chairman of the Committee tells us, it would be cruel to cast them off at the end of one year; they must be helped along. Doubtless they must. And, in the progress of this way of living, partly by the chase, partly by husbandry, and partly by alms, if a people naturally improvident do not speedily become degenerate and wretched, they will form an exception, not merely to all their brethren, with a single exception, who have preceded them In this coarse, but to the laws of nature. The earnest volition to go, is the great spring of the emigrant's success, —He summons up his soul, and strains his nerves, to execute his own purpose; but drive a heart-sick family, against their will, from their native land, put them down in a distant wilderness, and bid them get their living, and there is not one chance in fifty that they would live two years. While you feed them they will subsist, and no longer. General Clark tells you, that those who were in comfort twenty years ago must now be fed. Sir, they cannot live in these dismal steppes.

Everett, Edward. "Speech of Mr. Everett, of Massachusetts, on the Bill for Removing the Indians from the East to the West Side of the Mississippi. Delivered in the House of Representatives, On the 19th of May, 1830," (Boston: Office of the Daily Advertiser, 1830) pp. 28, 35.

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